An Ultimate Ungulate Fact SheetReturn to Artiodactyla

Kingdom: Animalia
  Phylum: Chordata
    Class: Mammalia
      Order: Artiodactyla
        Family: Bovidae
          Subfamily: Bovinae
            Genus: Bos

Bos frontalis



Bos frontalis [Lambert, 1804].  
Citation: Trans. Linn. Soc. Lond., 7:57.
Type locality: Bangladesh, NE Chittagong (domesticated stock).
The taxonomic record (above) is taken from Wilson and Reeder (1993).  The gaur is the only member of the subgenus Bibos [Hodgson, 1837], which has been elevated to a genus by some authorities (see Nowak, 1991; Wilson and Reeder, 1993).   Three wild subspecies are generally recognized, B. f. gaurus of India, the Indochinese gaur, B. f. readei, and the Malayan gaur, B. f. hubbacki.  Bos frontalis was previously used solely for the domestic gayal, with Bos gaurus referring to the wild gaur, although both are now grouped in B. frontalis (Wilson and Reeder, 1993).  Additional invalid synonyms for B. frontalis include annamiticus, asseel, brachyrhinus, cavifrons, fuscicornis, guavera, hubbacki, laosiensis, platyceros, readei, subhemachalus, sylhetanus, and sylvanus (Wilson and Reeder, 1993).

Click on the pictures above for a larger view of the photographs

General Characteristics

Body Length: 250-330 cm / 8.3-11 ft.
Shoulder Height: 170-220 cm / 5.6-7.2 ft.
Tail Length: 70-100 cm / 28-40 in.
Weight: 700-1000 kg / 1540-2200 lb.

The dark brown coat is short and dense, while the lower legs are white to tan in colour. There is a dewlap under the chin which extends between the front legs. There is a shoulder hump which is especially pronounced in adult males.  The horns are found in both sexes, and grow from the sides of the head, curving upwards. Yellow at the base and turning black at the tips, they grow to a length of 80 cm / 32 inches.  A bulging grey-tan ridge connects the horns on the forehead.

Ontogeny and Reproduction

Gestation Period: 275 days.
Young per Birth: 1, rarely 2
Weaning: 7-9 months.
Sexual Maturity: In the 2nd and 3rd year.
Life span: About 30 years.

Breeding takes place throughout the year, though there is a peak between December and June.

Ecology and Behavior

Where gaurs have not been disturbed, they are basically diurnal, being most active in the morning and late afternoon and resting during the hottest time of the day.  However, where populations have been molested by human populations, the gaur has become largely nocturnal, rarely seen in the open after 8:00 in the morning.  During the dry season, herds congregate and remain in small areas, dispersing into the hills with the arrival of the monsoon.  While gaurs are dependent on water for drinking, they do not seem to bathe or wallow.  When alarmed, gaurs crash into the jungle at a surprising speed.  Gaurs live in herds led by a single adult male.  During the peak of the breeding season, unattached males wander widely in search of receptive females.  No serious fighting has been recorded between males, with size being the major factor in determining dominance.  Males make a mating call of clear, resonant tones which may carry for more than 1.6 kilometers.  Gaurs have also been known to make a whistling snort as an alarm call, and a low, cow-like moo.  The average population density is about 0.6 animals per square kilometer, with herds having home ranges of around 80 square kilometers.

Family group: Small mixed herds of 2-40 individuals.  Adult males may be solitary.
Diet: Grasses, shoots and fruit.
Main Predators: Tiger, leopard.


Tropical woodlands in India, Indochina, and the Malay Peninsula.

Countries: Bangladesh, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, India, Lao People's Democratic Republic, Malaysia (Peninsular Malaysia), Myanmar, Nepal, Thailand, Viet Nam (IUCN, 2002).  

Range Map (Redrawn from Corbet and Hill, 1992)

Conservation Status

The gaur is classified as vulnerable (Criteria: A1cd+2cd, C1+2a) by the IUCN (2002), and is on Appendix I of CITES [excluding the domestic B. f. frontalis] (2003).


Gaurs have been domesticated in India for work and meat - dubbed the gayal, the domestic form is smaller than its wild counterpart.  The gaur is also known as the seladang.

Gaur (pronounced "GOWr") is a Hindustani name for this wild ox.  Bos (Latin) an ox.  Frons (Latin), genitive frontis, the forehead, brow; -alis (Latin) suffix meaning relating to: the forehead between the horns is a contrasting grey, a unique characteristic among cattle.

Gaur (Buchholtz, 1990)
Gaur (Buchholtz, 1990)

Literature Cited

Buchholtz, C. 1990. Cattle. In Grzimek's Encyclopedia of Mammals. Edited by S. P. Parker. New York: McGraw-Hill. Volume 5, pp. 360-417.

CITES (Convention on the International Trade in Endangered Species of Wild Flora and Fauna). 2003. Appendix I, as adopted by the Conference of the Parties, valid from 13 February 2003. Available online at

Corbet, G. B., and J. E. Hill.  1992.  the Mammals of the Indomalayan Region: A systematic review.  Oxford: Oxford University Press.

IUCN ( International Union for Conservation of Nature and Natural Resources). 2002. 2002 IUCN Red List of Threatened Species.  Available online at

Nowak, R. M. [editor]. 1991. Walker's Mammals of the World (Fifth Edition). Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins University Press.

Wilson, D. E., and D. M. Reeder [editors]. 1993. Mammal Species of the World (Second Edition). Washington: Smithsonian Institution Press.  Available online at

Additional Resources

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Arora, C. L.  1998.  Less used animals: yak and mithun - an overview.  Indian Journal of Animal Sciences; 68(8): 735-742; (Special Issue)

Baird, I.  1993.  Wildlife trade between the southern Lao PDR provinces of Champassak, Sekong, and Attapeu and Thailand, Cambodia, and Vietnam. TRAFFIC Southeast Asia Field Report No.3, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.

Baruah, K. K., B. N. Saikia, M. Bhattacharya, and K. Sarma.  1995.  The nutritive value of para grass for mithuns (Bos frontalis).  Indian Veterinary Journal; 72(12): 1333-1335.

Boitani, L., and S. Bartoli.  1982.  Simon & Schuster's Guide to Mammals.  New York: Fireside/Simon & Schuster, Inc.  Entry 386.

Bongso, T. A., M. Hilmi, M. Sopian, and S. Zulkifli.  1988.  Chromosomes of gaur cross domestic cattle hybrids.  Research in Veterinary Science; 44(2): 251-254.

Buntjerm, J. B., M. Otsen, I. J. Nijman, M. T. R. Kuiper, and J. A. Lenstra.  2002.  Phylogeny of bovine species based on AFLP fingerprinting.  Heredity; 88(1): 46-51.

Byers, O., S. Hedges, and U. S. Seal (editors).  1995.  Asian wild cattle conservation assessment and management plan workshop. Working document. IUCN/SSC Conservation Breeding Specialist Group, Apple Valley, MN, USA.

Choudhury, A.  1999.  The gaur Bos gaurus in Dibang Valley district of Arunachal Pradesh.  Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society; 96(2): 311-313.

Choudhury, A.  2000.  The status of gaur (Bos gaurus) in Mizoram, India. Tigerpaper 27(3): 30-31.

Choudhury, A.  2002.  Distribution and conservation of the Gaur Bos gaurus in the Indian Subcontinent.  Mammal Review; 32(3): 199-226.

Conry, P. J.  1989.  Gaur (Bos gaurus) and development in Malaysia. Biological Conservation 49: 47-65.

Duckworth, J. W., and S. Hedges.  1998.  A Review of the Status of Tiger, Asian Elephant, Gaur, and Banteng in Viet Nam, Lao, Cambodia, and Yunnan (China), with Recommendations for Future Conservation Action. WWF Indochina Programme, Hanoi, Viet Nam.

Duckworth, J. W., R. E. Salter, and K. Khounboline [compilers].  1999. Wildlife in Lao PDR: 1999 Status Report. IUCN, WCS and CPAWM, Vientiane, Lao PDR.

Gokula, V.  1997.  Comments on a newly born gaur (Bos gaurus).  Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society; 94(2): 394-395.

Hammer, C. J., H. D. Tyler, N. M. Loskutoff, D. L. Armstrong, D. J. Funk, B. R. Lindsey, and L. G. Simmons.  2001.  Compromised development of calves (Bos gaurus) derived from in vitro-generated embryos and transferred interspecifically into domestic cattle (Bos taurus).  Theriogenology; 55(7): 1447-1455.

Helin, S., N. Ohtaishi, and L. Houji. 1999. The Mammalian of China. Beijing: China Forestry Publishing House.

Heng Kimchhay, Ouk Kimsan, Kry Masphal, Sin Polin, Uch Seiha and Weiler, H.  1998.  The Distribution of Tiger, Leopard, Elephant and Wild Cattle (Gaur, Banteng, Buffalo, Khting Vor and Kouprey) in Cambodia. Interm Report: July 1998. Wildlife Protection Office, Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Hintz, R. L., and T. J. Foose.  1982.  Inbreeding mortality and sex ratio in gaur Bos gaurus under captivity.  Journal of Heredity; 73(4): 297-298.

Krishnan, M. 1972. An ecological survey of the larger mammals of peninsular India. Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society 69:322-349.

Lad, P. M., and R. Gopal.  1992.  The status of Indian guar (Bos gaurus) in Bandhavgarh National Park. Journal of Tropical Forestry 8(1): 84-95.

Martin, E. B., and M. Phipps. 1996. A Review of the Wild Animal Trade in Cambodia. TRAFFIC Bulletin 16(2):45–60.

Namikawa, T., T. Amano, Y. Kawamoto, Y. Kikkawa, K. Nozawa, T. Hashigughi, J. Xu, F. Yang, A. Liu, W. Xu, and L. Shi.  1995.  Coat-color variations, blood groups and blood protein/enzyme polymorphisms in the native cattle of Dali Bai and Xishuangbanna Dai autonomous prefectures of Yunnan Province and gayals (Bos gaurus frontalis) in China.  Report of the Society for Researches on Native Livestock; 15: 27-41

Pal, B. C., and D. P. Guin.  1986.  Population structure of gaur herds at Garumara Wildlife Sanctuary, West Bengal, India.  Proceedings of the Zoological Society Calcutta; 35 (1-2): 89-96.

Pasha, M. K. S., Q. Qureshi, K. Sankar, and G. Areendran.  2001.  Predation by tiger Panthera tigris Linn. on gaur Bos gaurus H. Smith in Pench Tiger Reserve, Madhya Pradesh.  Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society; 98 (3): 432-433.

Rabinowitz, A., G. B. Schaller, and U. Uga.  1995.  A survey to assess the status of Sumatran rhinoceros and other large mammal species in Tamanthi Wildlife Sanctuary, Myanmar. Oryx 29(2):123–128.

Rahman, F., A. Aziz, D. Das, and N. C. Nath.  1998.  Physical characteristics of mithun (Bos frontalis).  Indian Journal of Animal Sciences; 68(9): 957-960.

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Srikosamatara, S., B. Siripholdej, and V. Suteethorn. 1992. Wildlife trade in Lao P.D.R. and between Lao P.D.R. and Thailand. Natural History Bulletin of the Siam Society 40:1–47.

Thomas, P. R., D. A. Burney, F. W. Koontz, J. G. Doherty, and R. A. Cook.  1994.  Biotelemetric monitoring of heart rate and body temperature in gaur (Bos gaurus).  American Zoo and Aquarium Association Regional Conference Proceedings; 1994: 347-353

Thomas, P. R., R. A. Cook, D. A. Burney, J. G. Doherty, and F. W. Koontz.  1996.  Biotelemetric monitoring of physiological function in gaur (Bos gaurus).  Journal of Zoo and Wildlife Medicine; 27 (4) 513-521.

Ullas, K. K.  1984.  Interaction between gaur and tiger in Bhadra Wildlife Sanctuary. Journal of the Bombay Natural History Society 81(2): 460-461.

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Zhang, H., R. Wang, and Z. Li.  1999.  GIS-based ecotope types and their relationship with survival of Bos gaurus readei.  Yingyong Shengtai Xuebao; 10(5): 619-622.

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